Guide to tasting a wine

Guide to tasting a wine

Jan 19, 2022


Ilaria Rosa

The tasting of a wine consists of a set of operations through which the taster analyzes, by means of his senses, the drink being examined, with the aim of creating a sort of identity card by identifying and describing the its characteristics.

Degustazione vini


The tool used for tasting is only one: the glass.
This must have certain characteristics: the shape must be that of a stemmed goblet, and be of transparent and non-colored glass. The stem has several functions, including that of allowing the taster to study and observe the wine in the best possible way without the fingers causing shadows. In addition, it facilitates one of the most frequent actions during tasting, especially during the olfactory examination, and that is to make a slight rotational movement of the glass itself. Finally, it has the purpose of removing the taster's hand from the nose, since it could bring smells not inherent to the wine, compromising the tasting.

The sensory examination that takes place during a tasting is a real procedure that follows an objective analysis of 3 phases:
- visual exam
- olfactory examination
- gustatory examination

As far as the visual analysis is concerned, the classification of the wine in red, rosé or white is first identified. Subsequently the transparency, the clarity, the fluidity, the color andeffervescence (in the case of sparkling or semi-sparkling wines).


Esame visivo


The olfactory examination is certainly the judgment that prevails over the others during the tasting phase. There are numerous volatile odoriferous substances present in a wine, and it is to them that the task of making it more or less pleasant is entrusted.

According to their origins, the aromas present in a wine are usually divided into:
• primary or varietal
• secondary or fermentative
• tertiary or post-fermentation or aging

Esame olfattivo

The primary or varietal aromas are pre-existing to the wine, derive from the grapes used and therefore come from the vine of origin. They are contained in the grape skin and are transmitted to the wine during maceration and fermentation.

The secondary or fermentative aromas are originated during the winemaking processes. Among them we find at first the pre-fermentation aromas, that is the smells generated at the moment of pressing the grapes, which have a decidedly vegetal character, sometimes unpleasant, but destined to evolve in the continuation of the winemaking operations.
The actual fermentation aromas, on the other hand, originate during the phases of alcoholic fermentation, since they are determined by ethyl alcohol, carbon dioxide, secondary products of fermentation and the type of yeast.

Finally, the tertiary aromas are determined during the refinement, maturation and aging of the wine. These processes take place first in the barrel, undergoing a slow oxidation, and then in the bottle, therefore in an anaerobic environment. The taster, through the olfactory examination, analyzes the scent of a wine as well as intensity, quality, nature of the perfume and complexity, and obtains an opinion.

Thus we arrive at the last phase, the gustatory examination, whose objective for the taster is to analyze:
- structure
- softness
- hardness
- persistence
- intensity

Esame Gustativo

Regarding the structure, this is evaluated by excluding water and alcohol and therefore by analyzing the "dry extract" of the wine.
Sweet, sour, salty and bitter, all four of these basic tastes are perceptible in a wine, and it is thanks to these flavors, translated by the taste buds, that an in-depth analysis of roundness takes place. The predominant flavors on the palate are however sweet and sour; the latter determined by the multiple acids present in the wine, while sugars, alcohol and glycerin determine its sweet taste. Speaking of hardness, we call into question the presence of mineral salts, which contribute to flavor and increase the sensation of freshness in the wine; polyphenolic substances, on the other hand, are responsible for the bitter taste, which in a wine must always be dampened since an excessive taste highlights processing problems or alterations in the wine. Finally, the intensity is given instead by the tactile and flavorful sensations; while persistence is established by the number of seconds during which, after swallowing, the flavors of the wine remain in the mouth.

Having therefore identified all the objective characteristics through the three phases of the sensory examination, the taster can now focus his attention on other types of evaluation to be given to that wine: for example, those wines produced following specific production regulations, and the typicality of a wine, which can be understood as the set of characteristics that are found and repeated every year and reflect the grape variety, the soil and the climate.

Guida alla degustazione

The taster, now at the end of his analysis, now has all the information necessary to evaluate the evolutionary state of the wine in question, which does not always depend on the number of years elapsed since the harvest, but may derive from the type of wine itself. the type of vinification to which it was subjected, and other factors.

Once the identity card of the wine has been completed, the taster will finally be able to abandon the objectivity of the taster figure and give space to the subjectivity of the consumer, and pronounce the long-awaited words: “I like this wine” or “I don't like it”.



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